Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system – your nose, throat, and lungs. Influenza is commonly called the flu. Flu is highly contagious and spreads through respiratory droplets that contain the virus and come from the breath of another person enter their mouth, nose, or lungs.
The transmission can happen if –
• Someone without the virus is near a person with flu.
• Someone who is virus-free handles an object a person with the virus has touched and then touches their mouth. nose or eyes.
The incubation period of a disease is the time it takes from when the virus infects a person to when the symptoms start.
For flu, this is around 2 days, but it can vary from 1to 4 days. A person can transmit the virus even before symptoms appear.
At first, the flu may seem like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat. But colds usually develop slowly, whereas the flu tends to come on suddenly.
Common signs and symptoms of the flu include-
• Sore throat
• Aching muscles
• Tiredness and weakness
• Chills and sweats
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Dry, persistent cough
• Shortness of breath
• Vomiting and diarrhea, but this is more common in children than adults
Not everyone with flu will have all of these symptoms. For example, it is possible to have fun without a fever.
Influenza viruses cause the flu and are divided into 3 types, designated A, B, and C.
Influenza A and influenza B are responsible for epidemics of respiratory illness that occur almost every winter and are often associated with increased rates of hospitalization and death.
Influenza type C differs from types A and B in some important ways. Type C infection usually causes either a very mild respiratory illness or no symptoms at all. It does not cause epidemics and does not have the severe public health impact of influenza types A and B.
Influenza viruses are constantly changing, with new strains appearing regularly. Antibodies against Influenza viruses you have encountered in the past may not protect you from new influenza strains that can be very different viruses from what you had before.
Risk Factors –
Factors that may increase your risk of developing the flu or its complications include –
Seasonal influenza tends to target children 6 months to 5 years old and adults older than 65 years.
• Living or working conditions
People who live or work in facilities with many other residents, such as nursing homes or military barracks, are more likely to develop flu.
• Weakened immune system
Cancer treatments, anti-rejection drugs, long-term use of steroids, organ transplant, blood cancer, or HIV/AIDS can weaken your immune system, this can make it easier for you to catch the flu.
• Chronic illnesses
Chronic conditions including lung diseases such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, nervous system diseases, metabolic disorders, and airway abnormality, and kidney, liver, or blood disease, may increase your risk of infringing complications.
Native American people may have an increased risk of influenza complications
• Aspirin use under age 19
People who are younger than 19 years of age and receiving long-term aspirin therapy are at risk of developing Reye’s syndrome if infected with influenza.
Pregnant women are more likely to develop influenza complications, particularly in the second and third trimesters.
Women are more prone to develop influenza-related complications up to two weeks after delivering their babies.
People with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more have an increased risk of flu complications.
Flu v/s cold?
People often confuse the flu with a bad cold, as some symptoms are similar.
Similarities between the flu and a cold include –
• A runny or blocked nose
• A sore throat
• A cough
• Chest discomfort
Differences between the flu and a cold include –
• A cold does not involve a fever, while the flu usually does.
• Cold symptoms are typically less severe than those of flu.
• The symptoms of a cold tend to appear gradually, while the symptoms can develop rapidly.
• After having the flu, a person may continue to feel tired for several weeks.
• Flu is more likely to lead to complications, and it can be life-threatening.
The flu is not usually serious, but it is unpleasant. For some people, however, complications can arise. Some of these can be life-threatening.
Complications include –
• Bacterial pneumonia
• Asthma flare-ups
• Acute respiratory distress syndrome
• Sinus problems and ear infections
• Worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, or diabetes.
If a person seeks medical advice for flu symptoms, a doctor will likely ask about their symptoms and do a physical examination. A doctor may also take a throat swab for testing.
The rapid influenza diagnostic test can produce results in 10-15 minutes. Most of the rapid tests are based on PCR technology that identifies the genetic material of the virus.
Most people with influenza who are otherwise healthy do not need special drugs or treatments. If you have the flu, you should –
• Drink lots of fluids
• Eat a light diet
• Stay at home
• Take acetaminophen to reduce fever and relieve muscle aches.
If you are seriously ill, your doctor might recommend survival drugs for you. Antiviral drugs for influenza include Oseltamivir phosphate (Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), peramivir (Rapivap).
As influenza is so contagious, you can do other things that may help you prevent getting or spreading the infection –
• Practice good hand washing hygiene.
• Avoid being around other people when you do not feel well, especially when you have a fever.
• Avoid being around sick people whenever possible.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Eat well, exercise, and get enough rest.
• Consider taking a multivitamin and possibly vitamin D supplements to support your immune system.
Ayurvedic Perspective –
Influenza is due to the imbalance of Kapha and Vata energies. Vitiation of Kapha dosha results in nasal congestion and sneezing. Whereas vitiation of Vata impairs the body’s digestive fire which results in chills and fever.
Beneficial Antiviral Herbs
• Maha Sudarshan Churna
• Laxmivilas Ras
• Tribhuvankirti Ras
• Sanjeevani Vati
• Anand bhairav Ras
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